“If you had a child that wanted to change their gender, what would you do?”
Recently, a friend of mine asked my advice on a very important question and one that I believe many people want to ask others, or they want somewhere to start when it comes to tackling the issue in their lives. I have no children, so I’m sure I don’t know exactly how this might feel, but I do know how it feels to lose how you once knew somebody close to you, but for them to still be around. So I can share my thoughts on that. I also have some training in Counselling Skills and am naturally an empathic person.
Gender: the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones).
Those that are closest to us are our foundation. They’re our world, our reality and our perception. They create, form and stand on the land from which we move. Our perspective comes from our internal interpretation of how those closest to us are, and how they treat us. Our sense of identity is often derived from this, amongst other things, and we build our sense of self on it all. Who we are and how we feel, is what we see.
Sometimes those two experiences dont add up. Sometimes who others believe we are and what we’re believed to be, isn’t what we see. I think this happens for everyone on some scale; maybe you feel like others see you as loud but inside you feel very quiet and withdrawn, or maybe others talk of you as rude but you feel as though you are incredibly shy and cannot communicate like them. There’s usually some conflict between who we really are and what others believe us to be.
Sometimes that conflict is greater than just our behaviour. Sometimes it can be deeply rooted in your experience of the world and your self-expression can feel limited, which can cause your sense of self to topple over, or shift unrecognisably and then you’re isolated, lost, depressed.
What do I imagine I’d do if I was a parent and my child felt that their gender did not align to who they were and they wanted to change?
- I’d talk to them. Ask them about their experience. Listen to them. I think this would be particularly hard first of all as you’d be experiencing a lot of feelings yourself and depending on how you were dealing with your own emotions would depend on how available you would be to deal with theirs. It’s important that you are available, or that you can provide them with a confidant who is emotionally available, such as a counsellor or a family friend that they trust. Talking about it with a counsellor will really explore what’s happening for them internally and will allow you to take a step back for yourself if you’re struggling.
- Support them in whatever way they need. The aim for your children is for them to be happy right? Buying the clothes they like and cutting their hair so they look, and consequently feel much better about who they are is a way of supporting them. Like listening is.
- Be aware of your own feelings. This should be number one really. Being aware of your feelings will enable you to manage your feelings and ensure you get the help you may also need. Your child will run off your emotions, looking to you for emotional guidance and focus. This is a scary time for you all; feel the fear together.
- Accept that things will change. You are going to go through the grieving process, you are losing a sense of reality and what you may have known for many years. You’re also gaining a much happier child and potentially a more full-filling relationship with them.
Maybe it’s clearer if I talk about it in terms of how the grieving stages may play out via communication in your home:
Denial, “I think you’re just confused, this will pass”
Anger, “Don’t be so bloody ridiculous, you are quite clearly a boy!”
Bargaining, “If I buy you some girls clothes, can you just wear them in the house?”
These stages are absolutely normal in our processing of loss and grief. You may feel you are losing your son, or daughter. But what you have to gain in authencity in the relationship between you and them is immeasurable. Their happiness will improve significantly and enable you as a family to be much happier.
What is really important to note is that nobody is perfect. Nobody is the perfect mother, nobody is the perfect child, or the perfect human. We are all just aiming for happiness, but unfortunately society hasn’t been very open-minded for a while. The funny thing is that society is built around humans, by humans, so the only ones to change society, is humans. Yet, we refer to society as if it’s an institution that is a stone, unchangeable and unbreakable. It isn’t, we control it, with our behaviours and our views. Only we can improve attitudes, only we can change how we all feel. Yet we spend most of our time attacking one another.
We encourage the cycle of gender norms by allowing negative language to exist in society that works to reject any change between man and woman, that strives to push back to any sexuality that isn’t heterosexuality. We listen to the language and the behaviours, not challenging them because we don’t believe things will change anyway. By not challenging them, we are actively pursuing their integration into society once more, contributing to the never-ending cycle of humanity against humanity.
It would be really great if we just accepted people for who they are and try to, but don’t expect to, understand them. We won’t understand every-one, but we can respect every-one and respecting others starts with you; you must respect yourself. If I ever hear any negativity from one human to another based on their identity; I know it means the person saying the negative things is unhappy in some way.
Unhappiness comes from fear. If somebody else is living their lives and looks happy, it scares you. Why can’t I be that happy? What if I’m not good enough for my family if they don’t have those experiences? Am I enough?
We’re all enough. That’s the biggest secret there is.
I have linked some books below that I would advise on reading if you’re going through any of the things I’ve mentioned above:
If you’re more into the theory behind the sense of self, rather than a story: